The Methodist Grants Programme provided £80,000 to Barry Uniting Church for the building of its £1.3 million ‘The Bridge Between Centre’ in June 2020: a new, multi-purpose, community and church building in the redeveloped docks area of Barry, Vale of Glamorgan.
When the large-scale residential and commercial waterfront development began, Porthkerry Road Methodist and Windsor Road URC churches sold their buildings and formed a joint congregation, Barry Uniting Church.
Associated British Ports donated a site designated for community facilities to the new church, and the congregation erected a Port-a-Cabin and established a community garden, while plans and fundraising began.
Over seven years, Rev'd Phil Challis (Methodist), and Project manager Mr. Chris Atherton (URC), worked tirelessly with great support from many, to create a vision and construct the new centre, positioning the building as a tool for mission, not an end in itself.
Revd Phil Challis said, “It’s taken a significant mental shift for many to think about building a community centre in which we will worship. To this end, the design has focused on creating a community building first, with a church within.”
A sanctuary for everyone: all abilities, all faiths or none, any background
The café, run by community enterprise, Miss Tilley’s (providing long-term employment for people with disabilities), is sited in the entrance, opposite a sanctuary, open to all throughout the day. The kitchen incorporates a height-adjustable hob and sink, and a Changing Spaces facility ensures those with profound needs are welcome.
The 150-seat hall is divisible into four sound-proofed rooms for concurrent use and there’s a self-contained meeting room with separate facilities. The building has been designed to high ecological standards, uses local steel and cladding, and expresses the church’s commitment to caring for the world; it’s already received the Bronze Eco-Church Award.
The congregation has worked closely with incoming residents to develop the community garden, which is now a productive and beautiful space on what was barren land. When the Centre opens, accessible raised garden beds will be ready to welcome all.
Rev’d Challis cannot believe the unforeseen value in the project’s long journey to fruition, “Nobody could do this on their own. It’s been a huge project requiring many leaps of faith and many shifts in the way that we thought of Church. We’ve come to understand the impact of true partnership along the way. And we’re so grateful to the Methodist Grants Programme, we couldn’t have gone ahead without its generous grant. Now, we just can’t wait to open!”